The Batangas Balisong Knife



A butterfly knife, called a balisong in the Philippines, and sometimes known as a Batangas knife, is a folding pocket knife with two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. In the hands of a trained user, the knife blade can be brought to bear quickly using one hand. Manipulations, called flipping, are performed for art or amusement.

While the meaning of the term “balisong” is not entirely clear, a popular belief is that it is derived from the Tagalog Language words baling sungay (literally, “broken horn”as the original balisongs were made from carved animal horns. These knives are also referred to as “fan knives” or “click clacks.”

The use of the balisong is so popular in the Philippines that an urban legend exists about every Batangueño carrying it everywhere he goes. They are a pocket utility knife used by people of Filipino society. They have also been used to fight duels over matters of honor, although such practices have been discontinued decades ago.

The butterfly knife appears first documented in a 1710 French book, “Le Perret”, where an intricate and precise depiction of a butterfly knife is outlaid, explaining that the device was developed in the late 1600′s as a utility knife. It then most likely came into popular use in the Phillipines through transference intercontinentally to Spain, which coincides with the Spanish governance of the Phillipines during that period.
There is, however, myth and legend attending to the butterfly knife being an ‘ancient Filipino invention dating back to 800 AD’, stating it to be the most ancient of weapons of the Filipino fighting system of Eskrima but this is believed by academics and historians to be purely conjecture or urban legend.

There are two main types of butterfly knife construction: sandwich construction and channel construction.
Sandwich constructed butterfly knives are assembled in layers that are generally pinned or screwed together. They allow the pivot pins to be adjusted tighter without binding. When the knife is closed, the blade rests between the layers.

For a channel constructed butterfly knife, the main part of each handle is formed from one piece of material. In this handle, a groove is created (either by folding, milling, or being integrally cast) in which the blade rests when the knife is closed. This style is regarded as being stronger than sandwich construction.


Bite Handle
The handle that closes on the sharp edge of the blade.
Kicker (or Kick)  Area on the blade that prevents the sharp edge from contacting the inside of the handle and suffering damage.

The standard locking system, which holds the balisong closed. Magnets are occasionally used instead.

Latch, Batangas
A latch that is attached to the bite handle.

Latch, Manila
A latch that is attached to the safe handle.

Latch, Spring
A latch that utilizes a spring to propel the latch open when the handles are squeezed.

Safe Handle
The handle that closes on the non-sharpened edge of the blade.

Latch gate
A block inside the channel of the handles stopping the latch from impacting the blade

The base of the blade where the handles are attached with pivot pins.

Small curve found on some balisongs just above the kicker, that allows you to sharpen the blade more easily.

Unsharpened spine of the blade that is angled to appear as if it were sharpened. (many spear point balis actually have an edged side and a swedge side instead of two sharpened sides)

Antique dueling balisong
Balisongs are still handmade in the traditional manner in the Philippines. Such knives are referred to as “Filipino handmade” (FHM), and their quality varies greatly. The typical FHM is a sandwich style balisong made from layers of brass or aluminum sheet assembled with pins. Frequently, the handles are inlayed with scales fashioned from rosewood, bone, horn, stag, or synthetic materials. Balisongs made for the tourist trade are typically of passable quality, but are mass-produced by semi-skilled workers and lack the durability and aesthetics of a knife fashioned by an apprentice to a master craftsman.
Balisongs are also called “vente nueve” (twenty-nine) for the standard twenty-nine-inch balisong.

Legal status

Because of its potential usage as a weapon, and possibly due to its intimidating nature and rapid deployment, it has been outlawed in several Western countries. The importation ban and widespread criminalization of the butterfly knife occurred shortly after the popular film, The Outsiders (film) (which prominently featured butterfly knives in the same manner that Rebel Without A Cause featured switchblades — coincidentally resulting in their rapid criminalization) was released.

* In Canada, the possession of a butterfly knife is illegal.
* In Scotland, England & Wales, The Butterfly Knife has been legally classified as an offensive weapon since January 1989. Possession of one is a criminal offence, and any imported are liable to be seized and prosecution may follow. The exception to this are knives of this type over 100 years old which are classed as antiques.
* In Germany, the butterfly knife was outlawed when the Waffengesetz (weapons law) was tightened in July 2003 in the aftermath of the Erfurt massacre. Thus buying, possessing, lending, using, carrying, crafting, altering and trading it is illegal and is prosecuted by up to five years imprisonment, confiscation of the knife and a fine of up to 10.000€. Using a butterfly knife for crime of any kind – as any illegal weapon – is prosecuted by from 1 to 10 years imprisonment.
* In Hong Kong, the sale of full-size butterfly knives is illegal, but miniature versions can be legally obtained.
* In the Philippines, the sale of a 39-inch balisong is illegal.
* In some U.S. states it is illegal to possess and/or carry such a knife in public. In certain jurisdictions, butterfly knives are categorized as a “gravity knife”, “switchblade”, or “dagger” although they are also occasionally outlawed by name (“butterfly knife”). The knife is illegal in California if blade length exceeds three inches.
* In New York, the butterfly knife has been determined to not be a gravity knife.
* Butterfly knife trainers feature a special blunt and unsharpened “blade,” and are legal in areas where butterfly knives are not.

From: WikiPilipinas: The Hip ‘n Free Philippine Encyclopedia

Balisong History by

For centuries, the filipino warrior has been noted in the handling of clubs, spear, and bladed weapons. In the Southern Philippines, the Muslims were known not only for the courage and ferocity in battle, but also in their craftsmanship of bladed weaponry. The Kris, Kampilan, Barong and the likes were held in synoynym with Muslim warriors.

When one thinks of Muslim warriors one automatically equates them as warriors with Kris in their hands. In general cannotation, this is true as no Southern warriors would feel properly dressed without this weapon:

In the Northern and Visayan provinces, the same is true. The itak (Chopping Knife) is part of the daily life. In the Philippines, being a primarily agricultural country, this is an essential farming implement and when the situation calls for it, can be utilized for it’s primary being, i,e,, as a deadly weapon. The craftsmen who created this bladed weapons appeared at various times and places. In Batangas province, Philippines, there developed an industry that concentrate on making of deadly weapons like balisong knives.

It is claimed that “Perfecto de Leon” is the father of Balisong i the Philippines and records have it that the first one was made in 1905. With the advent of the Industrial revolution, requirements for the lowly “Itak” or bolo decreased and Perfecto de Leon turned to manufacturing knives and eventually to development and propagation of the balisong as a weapon truly Filipino Barrio Balisong shares the industry with the other near by barrios such as Pook, Buli, and Tolo.

After World War II, during what is known as the liberation period, balisong knives became popular among the American soldiers who bought them back with them to the Western World.Today, the balisong is again receiving an even greater popularity with the revival of martial arts and the impact of modern communications media such as print publications and features films. In some cases, the balisong is even referred to as “Ninja Knife”, possibly the product of western creative mind, attributing to the right application but the wrong country of origin.

Balisong Anatomy

The traditional Filipino Handmade Balisong is composed of many parts. The blade are usally made from hign carbon spring steel and the handles are made of brass with inserts from natural materials. The Inserts are usually horse bone, kamagong or malayan iron wood, narra wood, and the rare visayan spotted deer.

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